I meant to review this CD last issue along with some of the other reader submitted CDs I reviewed. It's probably a good thing that I missed it however as Shotgun Singer is in a class of it's own. Every once in a while an independently released, self recorded and self produced CD just jumps out of the piles of CDs in my office as a work of quality and timelessness that is as good, no better even, than many of the major label releases I've bought and listen to once or twice. When a singer/songwriter gets away from the stock, conventional arrangements of the genre, neat interesting things happen. Varied, atmospheric and stark instrumentation give each song on this album its own feel and mood. Strong songs to begin with, this is a case of production that makes a record better instead of burying the songs under too many overdubs and fussy editing. I tracked down Kris while she was on tour, and here's what she had to say about the making of the album: "It was a real mix of digital & analog, actual studios and just-me-in-a-room. I'm one of the many, many tape-lovers who often can't afford to work on tape. For my other records I've usually worked more live in the studio with a band, mostly recording basics to some digital format and then once we chose keeper tracks we'd bounce to 1-inch and do overdubs on that. But I decided for this one what was most important was just having shitloads of time and solitude, so I used my Digi 002 and my extremely limited gear and set up a little makeshift studio in my friend Erin McKeown's house while she was out on tour. Almost everything on the record except the drums & keys was recorded with one of my two mics - an AT 4050 and a SM57. I have a 4-channel Sytek preamp with 2 clean channels & 2 Burr-Brown. I am partial to the Burr-Browns for most stuff and used that for everything too. I built tracks around the vocals, a scratch guitar or keys part, and usually my little 'rhythm ace' drum machine - it's an old beatbox from an organ which makes great sounds but can't keep time to save its little analog soul, so I have to loop it. I built the core of the sonic landscape myself just layering vocals, guitars, cellos, a little bass, keys, found sounds, etc. I've been in studios enough that I had a few little glimmers of ideas of how you actually are 'supposed' to record all these instruments, but mostly I was bushwacking through the wilderness. The beauty of having all the time to work on it alone was that I could spend seven hours experimenting with how to record a banjitar through a Rotosphere pedal and not be wasting anyone's time or money. I also played a bit with re-amping vocals, playing the cello through effects, banging on a water glass with a pencil, all that stuff. When I got back from the cabin, I brought the tracks to a studio in my little town in Mass and added live drums - I swore I'd never overdub drum tracks in my life, but it turned out to be the thing to do and the drummer (Makaya McCraven) somehow managed to do it in an incredibly musical way. The studio [Bank Row Recording, Greenfield, MA] is an old bank building and we recorded the drums in the former conference room which is a little wood-paneled room with a vaulted ceiling, so the room sound is pretty particular and intense. The samples we did at my house, I have a mad-geniusfriend (Barry Rothman) who is an amazing musician although he doesn't play any actual 'instruments'. He brought a couple old portable turntables and canvas bags full of records and played to the tracks. Of course we made some loops out of what he did, and moved some stuff around, but quite a bit of it -including my favorite moment, in 'If Not for Love' after the bridge when the gondola guy starts singing in Italian - ended up exactly where he played it in real time. We both freaked out when that one happened. At this point I had spent a little too much time in my own brain with this project so I teamed up with Sam Kassirer to finish it. He has an 18th century farmhouse in Maine [Great North Sound Society, Parsonsfield, ME] that he's building into a studio, and we spent aweekorsouptheresiftingthroughthetracksandsculptingthearrangements. We tracked a bit too, but mostly just doubling parts that were already there. He has a beautiful vibraphone up there that actually belonged to Lionel Hampton, and we used that quite a bit. Then we held our breaths and mixed it. To be totally honest I had no idea if the whole thing would hold together or not, but it somehow magically worked. The mixing engineer at Q division (Kris Smith) really invested himself and did a beautiful job. I think if I read the description of how I made this record I might be a little bit horrified but it was a great experience. I certainly learned a lot about recording - I had always tinkered around making demos and stuff but this was the first time I attempted to make tracks that would see the light of day. There are a lot of pitfalls making a Pro Tools record but I think there was enough crankiness and spontaneity built in - partly just because I'm not a real engineer so I made a lot of stuff up, and partly because I'm not anal enough to get too bogged down in the digital quest for perfection, and partly because of the temperaments of the other musicians who played on it -that it ended up having an interesting personality." The CD is also beautifully packaged and designed and mastered at Peerless by the ubiquitous Jeff Lipton and Maria Rice. (www.krisdelmhorst.com) -JB

Tape Op is a bi-monthly magazine devoted to the art of record making.

Or Learn More